(*This story was updated at 5:33 p.m. on Tuesday, 1/31/23 to remove a reference to the Pennsylvania State Education Association. It was updated again at 8 p.m. to include comment from Sen. Scott Martin’s campaign spokesperson.)
A Pennsylvania lawmaker forcibly removed, and then stepped over, a protester who was blocking his access to a pricey fundraiser held by a fellow lawmaker on Tuesday morning.
Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, declined to answer questions after he left the event, held on behalf of Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, at Rubicon, a restaurant just steps from the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
The protester, who identified himself as Michael Bagdes-Canning, of Butler County, told the Capital-Star that he was “in a bit of pain,” after his confrontation with Regan, a former U.S. Marshal, and was already contending with back issues.
The protesters, garbed in hazardous materials suits, blocked access to the event, forcing attendees who had been asked to pay up to $5,000, to wait across the street from the restaurant shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
Martin, a former Lancaster County commissioner, is the current chairperson of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and a member of the Senate’s Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Martin’s campaign said that while the Republican “supports the right of anyone to peacefully protest, they must follow the laws of our state and never put the well-being or rights of others in jeopardy by physically blocking entry and exit into a private business.
“It is incredibly hypocritical that one of the leaders of this protest decries money in politics but served as the Vice President of a special interest group that gave millions of dollars to Pennsylvania state legislators during his tenure,” the spokesperson, Jason Ercole, said in a statement obtained by the Capital-Star.
Harrisburg police were soon called to the scene to try to peacefully break up the protest held by the environmental advocacy group, which identified itself as Pennsylvanians for Action on Climate.
“This is toxic stain on our government,” Bagdes-Canning told the Capital-Star. “Scott Martin is a reliable vote for the fossil fuel industry.” A veteran environmental activist, Bagdes-Canning sought the Green Party nomination for lieutenant governor in 2022.
Records filed with the Department of State show Martin receiving contributions from political action committees representing such major utilities as UGI, PPL and First Energy during the 2020 campaign cycle.
Political fundraisers such as Martin’s are common occurrence during the two-year legislative session, with several a day often taking place, starting early in the morning and running through the evening hours.
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